Back in the 1960s, trying to lead an environmentally conscious lifestyle, and
especially integrating green into one’s shopping, was a very fringe phenomenon.
But it’s now decidedly mainstream – and changing the rules of the
marketing game in a very big way. Set in motion by Rachel Carson’s seminal
book Silent Spring (1962), the clichéd forerunners of today’s green consumers
lived off the nation’s electric grid, installed solar-powered hot-water heaters
on their roofs, crunched granola they baked themselves, and could be
spotted wearing hemp clothing, Birkenstocks, and driving a Volkswagen bus.
Whatever greener products were available – mostly from fringe businesses,
and sometimes manufactured in basements and garages – gathered dust on
the bottom shelves of health food stores for good reason: they didn’t work,
they were pricey, and they sported brand names no one had ever heard of.
Not surprisingly, there was little demand for them. The natural laundry powders
that were introduced in response to the phosphate scare of 1970 left
clothes looking dingy, first-generation compact fluorescent light bulbs sputtered
and cast a green haze, and multigrain cereals tasted like cardboard. If
you were motivated to recycle, you lugged your bottles and daily newspapers
to a drop-off spot inconveniently located on the far side of town. Green
media was limited to treasured copies of National Geographic, PBS specials
of Jacques Cousteau’s underwater adventures, and the idealist and liberal
Mother Jones, Utne Reader, and New Age magazines.
2 The New Rules of Green Marketing
That was then. Times have changed – a lot, and with them the rules of
green marketing. Today, mirroring their counterparts around the world, 83%
of today’s American adults can be considered at least some “shade” of green.1
They enjoy a lifestyle where sustainable choices are highly accessible, attractive
and expected. Thanks to advances in materials and technology, today’s